Five lessons about Normation

I use the word "normation" to describe the process whereby one religious tradition asserts its superiority over others, particularly laying claim to being "the" orthodox tradition, while others are considered to be lesser, defective, or downright errant.

What lessons about normation might we be able to learn from the most recent declaration by the Vatican and the reinstatement of the Catholic Latin Mass?

1. What is written as normative by one religious group does not reflect the religious reality. In this case, the written declaration of the Catholic Church uses language of superiority, describing other forms of Christianity in deviant and "lesser" terms. But the fact is that other forms of Christianity do not consider themselves to be deviant or lesser, nor do all Catholics themselves think along these lines. Because one group describes another group as thus-and-so does not mean that the other group is thus-and-so.

2. Normative posturing in religion is successful because of its appeals to authority, appeals which are meaningful to certain parties, but do not reflect the fact that other parties have their own equally successful appeals. In this case, the appeals from the Vatican come in two ways: Roman successorship of the Pope (Petrine authority), and apostolic succession (our tradition is a continuation of the tradition that has been handed down from the twelve apostles).

3. Normative declarations result in confusion and offense. Need I say more?

4. There is always response to normative posturing (although in the ancient world this may not always be captured in the literature). Typical responses include outrage, anger, insult, defensiveness and questions like why would you say this about me? My religious views are just as good as yours if not better.

5. The group that is norming will then consolidate its position, sometimes adjusting its previous position, sometimes intensifying it.